We Are Both Right

Round Two: Brother vs. Sister with Mommy in the Middle

Are you a referee for your kids? Or do you let them solve sibling fights on their own? ©Julia Freeman-Woolpert/stock.xchng

I can hear my children right now in the family room and the pitch is rising by the minute. Do I really need to go down there again?

It could be that the little one is “accidentally” kicking her brother as he lays on the floor watching the baseball game.

Or maybe he’s back to tormenting her about the fly that got in before and how it’s going to eat them alive.

Whatever it is, I’m now listening to a high pitched scream. Now a cry. And some whimpering. Yep, it’s time to kick it into high gear and swoop in.

“She hit me,” says the one holding his head. “He was taking my toy,” she whines. “She wrote on my cards.” And on it goes.

Sibling rivalry? I don’t know if that’s exactly the right term. It’s not about competing against each other, like in school or sports. It’s a battle that tends to erupt between siblings who have to share the same space. And if you have more than one child, it probably needs no further explanation.

But the question at hand is whether or not a parent should intervene.

There’s something to be said for duking it out and solving your own problems. That’s the way I was raised, with one of my mom’s famous lines being: “I’m not your referee.” So my younger sister and brother and I usually had to figure out our own disputes, sometimes in hand to hand combat, but most of the time by talking it out.

Except that I’m having a hard time just letting them go at it, without jumping in to — well, referee.

Maybe it’s their age gap. Five years means a mismatched fight. Not that my son would intentionally hurt his sister, but if she gets going, I know he’ll be victim to a sneak attack. And my kids aren’t overly physical otherwise. But some days, they really manage to bring out the worst in each other.

And it’s times like those when my parental instinct kicks in — the one that tells me to do whatever necessary to stop whatever it is that’s hurting a child of mine (even if it’s another child of mine).

So I tend to get in the middle — a lot. My objectives are 1. stop the fighting and 2. sit them down to talk out the issues. They have to see each other’s side of the story and under my jurisdiction come up with a satisfactory resolution. Sometimes that’s enough time for them to cool off, other times they just wait for me to leave before starting up again.

Am I getting in the way of normal development, or do you think it really is a parent’s job to manage sibling infighting?

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Hey Amanda, when you’re done with that blood pressure cuff, can I borrow it? And do you want to trade a kid each while we’re at it — mix things up a bit?

I’m Not a Referee, Nor Do I Play One at Home

©alfredo-9/stock.xchng

When it comes to sibling rivalry, do you get involved or let the kids battle it out? ©alfredo-9/stock.xchng

A half hour. That’s how long my kids were home on their last day of school when I made them turn off the television and go to their rooms.

Why? Because they were fighting of course. Over what, I have no idea. Does it matter? If I want to stay sane, it shouldn’t.

Thirty freakin’ minutes. As I said to them on the day in question, “Are we really going to do this all summer?”

I have three children — a 10-year-old boy, an eight-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy. For all intents and purposes, let’s leave the little guy out of it for now and focus on the older two. (Although I had to stop in the middle of writing this because that sweet toddler bashed his sister in the back with a bat. But that’s a different problem.)

While for the most part they get along pretty well, they definitely have their moments when they are nothing more than oil and water. It’s natural of course — not liking the person that looks and sounds like you, the person who is your chief competitor in practically everything — television and video game selection, snack choices, the best seat on the couch, mom and dad’s love and attention, etc. etc. etc.

And sometimes, a person can rub you the wrong way by simply sitting there, not doing anything at all. Breathing. And if that particular person happens to live with you and you are with them practically 24/7, it’s not unreasonable to think that maybe they might get on your nerves a little bit.

Although when they are fighting over something silly (and trust me, at this age, it’s all silly) they might just get on my nerves a little bit.

So what do I do? Unless there is physical harm involved, nothing. And even then, unless it’s serious, they get sent to their rooms. Because if I got involved in every single one of their squabbles I would really get nothing done. And they would never learn. By letting them work out their differences on their own, I think (I hope) they are learning important conflict resolutions skills that will stay with them as they get older. (Provided they don’t think that pummeling their work colleague with a hail of Nerf gun bullets is acceptable.)

What’s your take on sibling rivalry? Do you get involved in any squabbles that your children might have?

Suzanne is more likely to get involved when her kids are fighting. I’m not sure which method — mine or hers — is less likely to raise a person’s blood pressure.